“The Slaughterhouse of the World” – The Battle of Verdun at 100
by Robert H. Clemm
The bones of these forgotten men serve as a noble challenge to every visitor to count the cost of any future struggle lest we permit another slaughterhouse to be created in our names.
The Battle of Verdun started 100 years ago this February, and lasted through the year, finishing in December 1916.
At 7:15 a.m. on February 21, the 1,200 guns of the German Fifth Army began a bombardment to signal the beginning of the Battle of Verdun. “Every new explosion is a new attack, a new fatigue, a new affliction,” related a French soldier about the experience of a barrage, leaving men with “hardly enough strength left to pray to God.” The affliction of the German barrage was beyond anything yet experienced in the Great War. Over the next 10 hours, literally a million shells were fired against French positions along a 19-mile front.
Verdun, in and of itself, was an inconsequential French hamlet in 1914. The name Verdun, however, became synonymous with the Great War because the town was vitally important in terms of where it lay. Ringed by modern fortifications, built at a furious pace by the French government to protect against a future German invasion, Verdun was the lynchpin of the French defensive system on the Western Front. Had Verdun fallen, there was little, at least in the way of natural obstacles let alone fortified positions, between the German army and the environs of Paris.
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